Dragon’s Lair

When I was a kid I visited many arcades. There was one game that I was fascinated with more than the others – Dragon’s Lair. Unlike other games that used digital graphics, this game used regular cartoon animation. It blew my mind. “Controlling a cartoon character?” I thought. I never, ever played that game.” Why?” you ask? I felt like it was too advanced for me and it cost more than a quarter to play. I was a kid, therefore, I was thrifty with the little bit of change I had, so I watched others play. Later, when I got older, I realized that you weren’t actually controlling the cartoon character, but making predetermined decisions at the right moment. What a jip (hell yes it’s a jip!… erm what ever a jip is I’m sure it is one – Ed)! Still, I thought it looked cool.

In 1984, Coleco released a version of Dragon’s Lair, for the ADAM computer, on both digital data cassette and 5.25 inch disk. If I’m not mistaken, both are identical. From the research I’ve done, Coleco was working on a cartridge version. Although the graphics would have been similar to the disk/cassette version, the game would not fit on a cartridge due to the many levels within the game. Simply put, the cartridge could not hold all that data.

The premise of the game is simple. A dragon kidnaps the princess and locks her in some wizard’s castle. Dirk (that’s you); has to make it through the castle to rescue the princess. The castle is full of traps and obstacles so look out for: flying skulls, giant skeletal grabbing hands, green globs, bats, fire pits, etc. Clear the castle, kill the dragon and BAM! You save the princess.

What makes this game, dare I say, superior; to the arcade version is that you have the freedom to act in more ways. In other words, your moves don’t have to be exact, it doesn’t require specific timing as the arcade does and you learn that right away on the first screen. Most of the time – the hard way (you can progress past the 1st screen!!? This is already sounding a billion times better than the NES version – Ed).

I am very familiar with a certain screen because, well, I have never gotten past the third one. Yes, I am suck. As a result, I am what you call a master of the ‘death animation’; where you see Dirk turn to a skeleton, then crumble to the floor. Although I can’t get far, I am impressed with the little I do get to play. The graphics are superb and the music is pretty good as well. The sound effects are what I would expect for the time (average). When I rate a video game I like to compare vintage video games with the others of the same year. This game is amazing for a 1984 title on an 8-bit system. As a result, this game ranks near the top of my list.

Coleco ADAM computers are getting more difficult to find these days. Not many of them sold when they hit the market in 1983. If you can find one, snag it. Games like Dragon’s Lair make it worth it! By the way, the disk drive is sold separately… Good luck finding one of those.

Gameplay Video

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Justin M. Salvato

Writer/Vlogger at Retroist
Seeker of 1980s nostalgia, rummager of vintage computers and player of retro video games.When not writing posts of The Retroist, I'm converting Retroist audio podcasts to Retroist video podcasts.My own videos can be found at www.YouTube.com/JustinSalvato.
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